THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by ProQuest

VIEWS: 26 PAGES: 3

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  This book is not specifically aimed at the inte-       trading. The author provides other examples of
gration of psychology and Christianity. However,         good decisions derived from group behavior.
Dr. Nicholi does a masterful job of weaving in              “Just follow the crowd,” is a mantra many use
examples from his own clinical practice and              when finding their way to a sports event or party.
research to illustrate the fit between intrinsic reli-   It turns out that problems of coordination are
gious faith and psychological well-being. I would        solved by crowds on a regular basis. heading for
recommend this book to Christian psychothera-            the exits after morning worship, choosing a route
pists; it has also proven a valuable classroom tool      to a favorite restaurant, or negotiating city side-
to encourage students’ consideration of how dis-         walks are coordination problems. A third prob-
parate worldviews influence our approach to              lem is one of cooperation. What was surprising
psychological issues such as suffering, sex, love,       following the Greensburg tornado disaster of 4
morality, and death.                                     May, 2007 was how few lives were lost. As soon
            *         *          *                       as the tornado had destroyed every house in
                                                         town, people were milling about in the dark as
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS. James Surowiecki.
                                                         they systematically searched for survivors. Secular
NY: Anchor Books, 2005. Pp 306. Reviewed by
                                                         and religious rescue teams were soon on site
Geoffrey W. Sutton (Evangel University, Spring-
                                                         with food, water, and other necessities.
field, MO).
                                                            Drawing on behavioral science research,
   The next time you are part of a large group or        Surowiecki identifies four conditions important
crowd, have a look around. Would you trust               to successful group outcomes. First, there needs
them to make a wise decision on your behalf?             to be a diversity of opinions presented. This is
How about guessing the weight of an ox after it          not always pleasant; however, the groupthink
has been slaughtered and dressed? James                  effect will eliminate the value of input into
Surowiecki, staff writer for The New Yorker,             group problem-solving unless a multiplicity of
begins his foray into collective intelligence by         ideas can be generated. Second, people need to
taking us back to century old findings by Sir            proffer their opinions independently. Putting for-
Francis Galton. The crowd of 787 that Galton             ward a consensus opinion subtracts value. Third,
observed weighed in with an average ox weight            decentralization is important so that people with
guess of 1,197 pounds. The actual weight was             various areas of expertise are part of the total
1,198. Not bad! Surowiecki’s thesis is that under        group presenting opinions. Finally, there needs
certain conditions, a crowd is smarter than an           to be a way of aggregating the information. In
individual is.                                           the past, collecting and organizing a vast array of
   The author divided the book into two parts. In        opinions would have been incredibly time con-
the first part, readers will learn three types of        suming. Fortunately, web-based input and
problems that appear amenable to solutions by            google-like algorithms can produce quick and
the wisdom of crowds
								
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